(a) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years.
(b) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
PC 273a is California’s basic Child Endangerment law. You can be charged with this law if you committed DUI while there was a minor in the vehicle. In this case, a minor is anyone under the age of 18, whether or not they are your child.
There are two versions of the law, 273a (a) and 273a (b). The first one is a felony, and the second one is a misdemeanor.
Understanding Child Endangerment
You can be convicted of child endangerment even if the child was not hurt. It applies to any of the following:
- Hurting the child yourself
- Allowing the child to be hurt
- Allowing the child to be put at risk of being hurt
In a DUI case, you can be charged with Endangerment even if there was no accident. If you were simply pulled over and arrested for DUI, and there was a minor in the vehicle, it counts.
The Difference between Felony Child Endangerment and Misdemeanor Child Endangerment
The two versions of the law are almost identical. The difference is whether the situation was “likely” to endanger the child, or not likely. If it was likely to endanger them, then any rational adult should have avoided it, and failing to do so is a greater crime (a felony).
In a DUI the prosecutor may pursue either version of the charge. Although the felony version is more serious, it’s also harder to prove. Usually they will only pursue the felony charge if the child was injured and/or of you had a very high blood alcohol level.
Consequences of Child Endangerment
The consequences depend on the version of the charge that’s used:
- Felony PC 273a (a): 2 to 6 years in state prison (more for serious injuries), up to $10,000 in fines, and 4 years of formal probation
- Misdemeanor PC 273a (b): Up to 1 year in county jail, up to $1,000 in fines, and 4 years of informal probation
These penalties are on top of the DUI penalties. Additionally, you may be ordered into a 1-year child abuser treatment program, and the judge may issue a protective order that could ban you from seeing the child. Child Protective Services may also get involved. You can read more on how a DUI affects child custody here: My child was in the car when I was arrested for DUI in Los Angeles. Could they be taken away?
Have you been charged with Child Endangerment related to DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.